Benjamin Bradlee was born in Boston on 26th August, 1921. One of his closest friends as a child was Richard Helms. While at Harvard University Bradlee married Jean Saltonstall, the daughter of Senator Leverett Saltonstall. After graduating in 1943 Bradlee joined naval intelligence and worked as a communications officer. His duties included handling classified and coded cables.
At the end of the war Bradlee went to work as a clerk for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great) points out that as the ACLU is an "organization that promotes various progressive causes, including conscientious objection to war. This job, so out of character for the young patriot, may or may not have been an intelligence assignment."
In 1946 Bradlee purchased the New Hampshire Times. He worked for the newspaper until it was sold to William Loeb. As a result of a family friend who knew Eugene Meyer, Bradlee found work on the Washington Post as a crime reporter. Bradlee also got to know Philip Graham, Eugene Meyer's son-in-law, and associate publisher of the newspaper. In 1951 Graham helped Bradlee to become assistant press attaché in the American embassy in Paris.
In 1952 Bradlee joined the staff of the Office of U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), the embassy's propaganda unit. USIE produced films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the the Central Intelligence Agency throughout Europe. USIE (later known as USIA) also controlled the Voice of America, a means of disseminating pro-American "cultural information" worldwide. While at the USIE Bradlee worked with E. Howard Hunt and Alfred Friendly.
According to a Justice Department memo from a assistant U.S. attorney in the Rosenberg Trial Bradlee was helping the CIA to manage European propaganda regarding the spying conviction and the execution of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg on on 19th June, 1953.
Bradlee was officially employed by USIE until 1953, when he began working for Newsweek. While based in France, Bradlee divorced his first wife and married Antoinette Pinchot. At the time of the marriage, Antoinette's sister, Mary Pinchot Meyer, was married to Cord Meyer, a key figure in Operation MB, a CIA program to influence the American media.
Antoinette Bradlee was also a close friend of Cicely d'Autremont, who was married to James Angleton. Bradlee worked closely with Angleton in Paris. At the time Angleton was liaison for all Allied intelligence in Europe. His deputy was Richard Ober, a fellow student of Bradlee's at Harvard University.
In 1957 Bradlee created a great deal of controversy when he interviewed members of the FLN. They were Algerian guerrillas who were in rebellion against the French government at the time. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great) this had all the "earmarks of an intelligence operation". As a result of these interviews, Bradlee was expelled from France.
Bradlee now began working at Newsweek in Washington. While working for the journal Bradlee became a close friend of John F. Kennedy. This included publishing stories beneficial to the career of the ambitious politician. Bradlee later wrote two books about Kennedy: That Special Grace (1964) and Conversations with Kennedy (1975).
In 1961 Richard Helms tipped off Bradlee that his grandfather, Gates White McGarrah, was willing to sell Newsweek. Bradlee went to Philip Graham with the story. Graham was interested in buying the journal and gave Bradlee a handwritten check for $1 million to convey to McGarrah as a down payment.
Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was Antoinette Bradlee's sister, divorced Cord Meyer. The Bradlees set up Mary's apartment and art studio in their converted garage. In January, 1962, Mary began a sexual relationship with President John F. Kennedy. She told her friends, Ann and James Truitt, that she was keeping a diary about the affair.
In 1962 Mary began visiting Timothy Leary, the director of research projects at Harvard University. Leary supplied LSD to Mary who used it with Kennedy. According to his biography, Flashbacks, Leary claims that Mary phoned him the day after Kennedy was assassinated: "They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much... They'll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I'm scared. I'm afraid."
On 12th October, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Henry Wiggins, a car mechanic, was working on a vehicle on Canal Road, when he heard a woman shout out: "Someone help me, someone help me". He then heard two gunshots. Wiggins ran to the edge of the wall overlooking the towpath. He later told police he saw "a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman."
Soon afterwards Raymond Crump, a black man, was found not far from the murder scene. He was arrested and charged with Mary's murder. The towpath and the river were searched but no murder weapon was ever found.
The media did not report at the time that Meyer had been having an affair with John F. Kennedy. Nor did it reveal that her former husband, Cord Meyer, was a senior figure in CIA's covert operations. As a result, there was little public interest in the case.
During the trial Wiggins was unable to identify Raymond Crump as the man standing over Meyer's body. The prosecution was also handicapped by the fact that the police had been unable to find the murder weapon at the scene of the crime. On 29th July, 1965, Crump was acquitted of murdering Mary Pinchot Meyer. The case remains unsolved.
In 1965 Katharine Graham appointed Bradlee as assistant managing editor of the Washington Post under Alfred Friendly, his former colleague at USIE. Graham then requested Walter Lippmann to suggest to Friendly that he should retire in order that Bradlee could take over his job as managing editor. After a meeting with Graham he agreed to resign.
Graham was pleased with the way Bradlee edited the Washington Postand in 1968 she appointed him vice president of the company. Bradlee became a strong supporter of the Vietnam War. This was reflected in the journalists he selected to report on the conflict.
Daniel Ellsberg was member of the McNamara Study Group that in 1968 had produced the classified History of Decision Making in Vietnam, 1945-1968. Ellsberg, disillusioned with the progress of the war, believed this document should be made available to the public. He gave a copy of what later became known as the Pentagon Papers to William Fulbright. However, he refused to do anything with the document, so Ellsberg gave a copy to Phil Geyelin of the Washington Post. Katharine Graham and Bradlee decided against publishing the contents on the document.
Ellsberg now went to the New York Times and they began publishing extracts from the document on 13th June, 1971. This included information that Dwight Eisenhower had made a secret commitment to help the French defeat the rebellion in Vietnam. The document also showed that John F. Kennedy had turned this commitment into a war by using a secret "provocation strategy" that led to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents and that Lyndon B. Johnson had planned from the beginning of his presidency to expand the war.
Bradlee was criticised by his journalists for failing to break this story. He now made attempts to catch up and on June 18, 1971, the Washington Post began publishing extracts from the History of Decision Making in Vietnam, 1945-1968. However, Bradlee concentrated on the period when Dwight Eisenhower was in power. The first story reported on how the Eisenhower administration had delayed democratic elections in Vietnam.
Richard Nixon now made attempts to prevent anymore extracts from the Pentagon Papers being published. The Supreme Court ruled against Nixon and Hugo Black commented that the two newspapers "should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly".
While editor of theWashington Post Bradlee promoted the career of Bob Woodward. Like Bradlee, Woodward had been a communications officer for naval intelligence. In July, 1972, Bradlee arranged for Woodward to work with Carl Bernstein on a story about a growing political scandal concerning the Nixon administration.
On 3rd July, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and James W. McCord were arrested while removing electronic devices from the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. It appeared that the men had been to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The phone number of E.Howard Hunt was found in address books of the burglars. Reporters were now able to link the break-in to the White House. Woodward began receiving information from a secret source using the codename "Deep Throat". He told Woodward that senior aides of President Richard Nixon, had paid the burglars to obtain information about its political opponents. There has been much speculation about the identity of "Deep Throat" but one possibility is Bradlee's CIA friend, Richard Ober.
Nixon continued to insist that he knew nothing about the case or the payment of "hush-money" to the burglars. However, in April 1973, Nixon forced two of his principal advisers H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. A third adviser, John Dean, refused to go and was sacked.
On 20th April, Dean issued a statement making it clear that he was unwilling to be a "scapegoat in the Watergate case". When Dean testified on 25th June, 1973 before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate, he claimed that Richard Nixon participated in the cover-up. He also confirmed that Nixon had tape-recordings of meetings where these issues were discussed.
The Special Prosecutor now demanded access to these tape-recordings. At first Nixon refused but when the Supreme Court ruled against him and members of the Senate began calling for him to be impeached, he changed his mind. However, some tapes were missing while others contained important gaps.
Under extreme pressure, Nixon supplied tapescripts of the missing tapes. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment. On 9th August, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office. Nixon was granted a pardon but other members of his staff involved in helping in his deception were imprisoned.
In March, 1976, James Truitt, a former senior member of staff at the Washington Post, gave an interview to The National Enquirer. Truitt told the newspaper that Mary Pinchot Meyer was having an affair with John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated. He also claimed that Meyer had told his wife, Ann Truitt, that she was keeping an account of this relationship in her diary. Meyer asked Truitt to take possession of a private diary "if anything ever happened to me".
Ann Truitt was living in Tokyo at the time that Meyer was murdered on 12th October, 1964. She phoned Bradlee at his home and asked him if he had found the diary. Bradlee, who claimed he was unaware of his sister-in-law's affair with Kennedy, knew nothing about the diary. He later recalled what he did after Truitt's phone-call: "We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary."
James Angleton, CIA counterintelligence chief, admitted that he knew of Mary's relationship with John F. Kennedy and was searching her home looking for her diary and any letters that would reveal details of the affair. According to Bradlee, it was Mary's sister, Antoinette Bradlee, who found the diary and letters a few days later. It was claimed that the diary was in a metal box in Mary's studio. The contents of the box were given to Angleton who claimed he burnt the diary.
Leo Damore claimed in an article that appeared in the New York Post that the reason Angleton and Bradlee were looking for the diary was that: "She (Meyer) had access to the highest levels. She was involved in illegal drug activity. What do you think it would do to the beatification of Kennedy if this woman said, 'It wasn't Camelot, it was Caligula's court'?"